Saltillo Tile Flooring For Home Design – TheFlooringlady

Saltillo Mexican tile has been used in homes in Central and South America for hundreds of years. Though not durable enough to withstand harsh winters outside, these tiles are lovely indoors anywhere. The challenges of this type of flooring include installation of Saltillo tile, restoration of Saltillo tile, and maintaining Saltillo tile. But the benefits — rustic beauty, non-toxic materials used to manufacture, and low cost — may outweigh any drawbacks.

Related Reading: Check out our article on the best kinds of tile flooring, including reviews and comparisons!

Bring the beauty and peace of Mexico to your home with Saltillo floor tiles. When paired with the right décor, Saltillo tile can have a bit of an exotic feel. It also makes for great solar mass for homes using passive solar energy!

Many choose Saltillo tile due to the:
  • Natural beauty of the tiles themselves.
  • The non-toxic materials used to manufacture the tiles.
  • The low-cost of the tiles for the high end look.
Saltillo tile has its challenges, which include:
  • The tiles themselves are extremely fragile.
  • Maintaining and cleaning the tiles is tedious.

(Photo credit: Rustico Tile and Stone)

What is Saltillo Tile?

Saltillo tile is a type of terra-cotta tile made only in northern Mexico. These tiles are made of natural clay that is first shaped by hand and then dried in the sun. Saltillo tiles are then kiln fired to ensure hardness and durability. The tiles are carefully positioned in the kiln in order to create different colors. Depending on the tile position in the kiln, the resulting tiles can range in hue from pale amber to dark terra-cotta. Traditionally, Saltillo tiles are left unglazed, although some manufacturers sell them pre-treated or pre-sealed in order to increase their durability.

Naturally, Saltillo tile is not terribly strong or hard. Although it is comparable to other natural stone tiles (such as slate or granite) it can chip and crack. When used as exterior tiling, it can only be used in very mild climates, as harsh weather can damage the tile. Really, Saltillo tile should not even be used indoors in places that are particularly cold, as they will not be able to hold up in the face of colder temperatures. Saltillo tile typically has a MOH (measure of hardness rating) between a 3 and 4, which is fairly low (compare to porcelain, which has an average MOH of 7-9). Therefore, it is very rarely used for outdoor purposes these days, though it very warm climates, well maintained and sealed Saltillo tile makes for a nice tile flooring option for a patio. However, the elegance and beauty Saltillo Tile brings to the interior of the home more than makes up for its lack of strength and hardness.

(Photo credit: Rustico Tile and Stone)

Installing Saltillo Tiles

Installing Saltillo tile also has to be done carefully, as the tiles are delicate. Any grout or chemicals spilled on the tiles can damage them, so it is crucial to keep the tiles covered with paper until the installation is complete. This is not typically something that you will want to attempt yourself unless you have a good bit of experience with tile installation and feel confident with your abilities. However, because individual Saltillo tiles are so inexpensive, you can take a little liberty and losing one or two tiles during installation will not obliterate your flooring budget.

Prior to starting installation, you will need to make sure the subfloor is perfectly prepared. The flooring must be perfectly level and there are no cracks, holes or misalignments where moisture can get trapped. The tiles can be laid starting in one corner of the room or starting from the middle of the room, but the last row of tiles will need to be cut carefully to fit. Once the tiles have all been laid, a sealer will need to be applied, then a grout, and finally at least a second layer of the sealer.

Sealing Saltillo Tiles

Saltillo tile was introduced to Mexico by Spaniards hundreds of years ago, and the process of making the tile has remained the same since. The tile is actually named after the Mexican town of Saltillo, which produces the right clay and weather for making this popular tile.

As Saltillo tiles are fired at such low temperatures, they remain very porous and are therefore very susceptible to water damage. It is almost exclusively recommended these days that you seal Saltillo tiles to protect them from water, wear, and scratches. Typically, Saltillo tiles should be sealed after they have been installed and are completely dried and clear of extra dirt and debris. You will want to decide primarily how much shine you are wanting from your floors and choose a level of gloss or matte for the sealant and polish appropriately. Sealant should be applied in several coats, and the number of coats can vary depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Maintaining Saltillo Tiles In the Home

Saltillo tile in the home has a few drawbacks. Regular sweeping is one of the best ways to maintain the Saltillo tiles in your home. While some recommend vacuuming, regular vacuuming could chip the tile, which is why sweeping is really the preferred method for daily maintenance. For a deeper cleaning, unsealed and untreated tile needs to be laboriously cleaned with diluted ammonia and “elbow grease”, and lots of rinsing. Saltillo tile floors need stripping and resealing, before and after cleaning to do a proper job. It is important to also wipe up any spills and dirt right away, as the tiles can stain. If the floor is ever flooded, the delicate tiles will be severely weakened. Only slightly damp mops can be used on the floors, and only the very mildest cleansers (no harsh chemicals). Also, a sealant will have to be reapplied regularly to keep the floor in good condition.

(Photo credit: Rustico Tile and Stone)

If you are planning to refinish Saltillo tiles, you will need to make sure any previous polish or sealant has been completely stripped and all that remains is the basic Saltillo tiles. To strip the tiles, you should use a gentle solvent and a soft bristle brush to prevent damage to the tiles themselves. Also, when refinishing, a new grout will have to be applied along with the new sealant.

Why Choose Saltillo Tile

Despite these disadvantages, there are many benefits to selecting Saltillo tile for your flooring needs. Primarily, Saltillo Mexican tile is beautiful and offers design flexibility. Whether you have a modern home, a country French-style residence, or love the Mediterranean style, the natural beauty of Saltillo tile can make your home truly stand out. Although this tile requires a little more effort to care for, many homeowners and decorators feel that it is well worth it for the beauty it brings to any room. Modern sealants do make cleaning and caring for Saltillo tile easier than ever before. The tile itself is comparatively inexpensive and many homeowners like the all-natural products that go into the tile-making process. At a time when we are surrounded by chemicals, it is nice to bring a natural product into the home.

The greatest benefit to Saltillo tile is that, because it is inexpensive, people feel free to experiment with various patterns and designs with the tiles and the results can be truly unique and spectacular. The tiles are readily available via almost all leading suppliers and, therefore, sourcing the product is not difficult at all. There are even blogs dedicated to various Saltillo designs where you can find inspiration and demonstrations of a whole selection of incredible designs. Perusing these visual examples can give you a clear idea as to how you want your flooring to look. If you need further or more specific advice, your Saltillo tile supplier will be able to recommend a few experts who can help you make your choices.

(Photo credit: Rustico Tile and Stone)

In general, natural tile flooring is a beautiful and durable flooring option for your home. If you’re looking for advice on specific tile flooring options, most popular professional companies, such as Lumber Liquidators, are happy to provide information regarding specific tile flooring options or installation and will even do in-home consultations at no charge. If you want a naturally beautiful and affordable flooring solution, consider installing Saltillo tile in your home. It has been trusted by savvy homeowners for hundreds of years. Is it time for you to trust too?

394 thoughts on “Saltillo Tile Flooring For Home Design – TheFlooringlady”

  1. I recently installed some saltillo tile that had stoutside under a tarp for a year. Manu are exhibiting a white powdery film. I’ve read about acit washing to get rid of this film before sealing but can’t find out what type of acid and where to get it. Can you help?
    Thanks, Doc

  2. Hi Doc,
    What you’re probably thinking of is a sulphuric acid wash. AquaMix has a very good line of products for Saltillo, including some formulated to remove efflorescence – which is that white powdery film that your tiles now have. AquaMix also has products to remove efflorescence that don’t contain sulphuric acid.

  3. Hi Doc,
    It’s carried at some of the big box stores (HD, Lowe’s and such). They also have an off-branded line (same stuff, different label), but I can’t think of what it’s called at the moment. If you go to their website, you’ll find their Customer Care number, they’re great about answering questions and I know that they’ll be able to tell you about what the alternative name is of their products.

  4. I purchased a home with more than 1000 sq ft of saltillo tile. Several of the tiles are broken. Rather than trying to find matching tiles to replace the broken ones is there a way that they can be repaired, with epoxy or something else?

  5. I am considering having 1400 sq ft of Saltillo tile put in a Florida condo? For resale purposes , would this be considered a negative to potential buyers? I love the look but do not want to put in something that will severly limit potential buyers in the future (5-10 years). Thanks for any input.

  6. We just had an installer place saltillo mexican tile in our den. They used 4 coats or Dura Seal 500 to seal the tile. I noticed my dogs nails as well as chairs tend to scratch the surface. Is there another product we can use on top of the tile for protection of our floor.

  7. We have a porch with Saltillo tiles that was professionally installed. My wife now wants me to add a walkway in the yard of Saltillos, it will be on a 3-4″ thick concrete base with the tiles set on top. I want to know if I can add a sealer coat on top of the tiles before I set them, adding the second coat after they have set but before I grout them in place, is this doable, or will I get into trouble when I soak them prior to placement? Any other things to be forewarned about? Thanks Vic

  8. Hi Ric, Dogs’ nails are hard on any flooring surface. The Dura Seal is intended,I think, to seal the tiles from dirt and stains, not from scratches introduced by nails and rocks, or furniture being moved across the floor. The Dura Seal website suggests three products to use for your finish. You should explore that site to see what’s going to work for your floor and life.

    I noted the polyurethane is an oil-based product (and for wood floors), and that means it’s going to have high VOCs. I can’t recommend anyone
    use a product with high VOCs because of the damage it causes to air quality and your health. Shop with caution.

  9. Hi,
    I recently purchased a home with saltillo tile and I think my cat is leaving little surface scratches on the tile. I don’t think the scratches are actually into the tile, maybe just in the sealant. Can I remove/cover up these scratches?

  10. We just purchased a home with Saltillo tile. there are some tiles in the kitchen that are much lighter than the rest. Is there a way to darken those OR or lighten the rest?

  11. I have 550 feet of saltillo tile in my house. Over the years some of these tiles have become worn and pitted. What can I do to restore these tiles?

  12. I have saltillo tile in a garage room, Galveston Texas, it was flooded with 3 ft of water during Hurricane IKE for about 6 hours. Any recommendations for cleaning and resealing?


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